CASH taken from loan sharks is being used to help schoolchildren in South Tyneside save more than £142,000.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team is working with the borough council and the Bridges Credit Union in South Shields to raise awareness of the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks and promoting safe and legal alternatives.
A sum of £1,500 raised from the ill-gotten gains of illegal lenders has been ploughed into providing an incentive scheme to encourage youngsters to save.
After paying two deposits into the Bridges Credit Union, the pupils receive £10 from the fund to add to their savings.
Representatives from the team also spoke to children during assemblies at 25 schools across South Tyneside – with nearly 1,500 of the pupils continuing to save with the credit union.
The campaign, which also reached parents and teachers, was funded with proceeds of crime money taken from convicted loan sharks in the area.
Crime cash was also used to fund football kits for the team at Biddick Primary School in South Shields.
The council’s Trading Standards section contributed £1,000 worth of proceeds of crime money to the scheme.
Coun Tracey Dixon, the council’s lead member for area management and community safety, said: “Any initiative to educate our communities about the dangers of illegal money lending is welcomed.
“Unlicensed lending erodes our communities and brings such misery to families, so it’s important that we do all we can to help people understand the dangers and encourage people to use safe alternatives.
“Going into schools is also a good way to educate youngsters about money and finances and get them thinking about how they can look after money for the future, such as saving with the credit union.”
Gavin Hennessey, chief executive of the Bridges Credit Union, said: “The money from the Illegal Money Lending Team and South Tyneside Trading Standards has been a huge help in promoting our savings clubs in primary schools.
“The savings clubs allow children from Reception to Year 6 to save on a regular basis with the club operating from the school.
“To date, we have 25 schools with savings clubs. We have more than 1,400 children saving and collectively they have saved over £142,000.
“The help from the team allows us to continue the work we are doing to promote financial inclusion to children.”